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Teachers Unions Bombard N.Y. State Senate With Anti-School Choice Petitions

Last week, New York's powerful city and state teachers union sent nearly 20,000 faxes and 1,500 phone calls to Republican state senators opposing a budget plan to boost charter schools. This organized campaign to deny children increased options for education conveniently overlooked the plain fact that the GOP state senate proposed higher funding for public schools specifically, even beyond the proposals of Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"We are not going to stand by and let anyone perpetrate the [federal Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos agenda on our public schools," Michael Mulgrew, president of New York City's United Federation of Teachers (UFT), told the New York Daily News. "Teachers, parents and community activists will stand against any attempt to hurt our students and our schools."

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) said he received over 9,000 faxes opposing the school choice proposal. Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) reported receiving another 700, with Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) finding 500. Overall, UFT and its affiliated state-level union the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) reported sending nearly 20,000 faxes and making 1,500 phone calls. The Daily News branded it "paper warfare."

In addition to these faxes and phone calls, the unions also sent social media messages accusing specific Republican senators of "bringing the DeVos agenda to New York."

This attack followed a move last week by the state senate's Republicans, who passed a non-binding resolution outlining their budget priorities. This resolution proposed eliminating the statewide cap on charter schools and unfreezing per-pupil charter tuition, along with other changes the Daily News characterized as "sought by the charter school industry."

Unions argued that the changes could cost city public schools over $183 million from increased charter tuition and payments for charter personnel, along with another $88 million for the increase in rental assistance.

According to New York state Senator Catherine Young (R-Chautauqua), however, her party's budget "includes a five percent increase in school aid funding over the last year, for a total of $1.2 billion, bringing the total investment in schools to a record level of $25.4 billion." This plan "also doubles the Governor's Foundation Aid proposal with $478 million in additional funding."